All posts by Sue

D Day Invoked Memories

Watching the D Day Commemorations encouraged my mum to share some memories I don’t think I have heard before. This is surprising, because she does share a lot of memories – a lot of times (joke Dad).

Mum was aged 14 on D Day. Her own dad, whom she always refers to in a rather Enid-Blyton-esque way as Father (and her mum as Mother), served in both wars. We children called our grandfather Bampy. He started out as Grampy but that was hurriedly changed when we thought it very funny to call him Grumpy.

I don’t know why we called him Grumpy. I don’t remember ever finding him so, although other members of my family may differ in their opinions of him. My memories of the man – a somewhat straight-laced fellow with a military air, who is now long gone, having passed away at the age of 99 – are of sitting on his knee while he pressed his warm, smooth, pocket watch to my ear to hear it tick. Later I recall his delight at my visits from Sheep Country, especially when I brought my new daughter toddling across his threshold (she is 30 now!)

In WW1 Bampy was at Ypres. I have a copy of the Wipers Times brought back by him when his time in the trenches was over. When he got home he stripped off and told Nanna to burn his clothes. He slept outside for some time. Perhaps the peace and birdsong acted as a balm.

In WW2, as an architect, he had a reserved profession so escaped active service. Instead he became part of the  Home Guard.

Because he had military experience he was made a Sergeant and found himself in command of a gaggle of men not unlike those in the 1960s and 70s TV series, Dad’s Army.

From what I can gather, the Home Guard was very similar to its depiction in Dad’s Army. Bampy’s men had little idea of what constituted a platoon, or indeed the meaning of discipline or rules. On one occasion they were given a rifle. I don’t know where it came from but Bampy was responsible for training his men in its use. One man held it to his shoulder and focused his eye through the sight at whatever he was aiming at. The rest of the group gathered around to watch.

At the last minute, one hapless (or is it stupid?) fellow, decided to check the view the gunner would have. He put his head in the line of fire and was shot through the nose.

Simon Drew picked up a tea towel, Simon drew.

On another occasion the platoon was to practice an assault on a neighbouring village. The plan was for Bampy to spend the night in a guest house in the village and creep out at night to meet the rest of his motley band. Don’t ask me why he had to stay in the village, or where the others were. Anyway, at the allotted hour he rose from his bed, dressed in camouflage and tiptoed along the landing, to be confronted by a snarling German Shepherd dog at the bottom of the stairs. This brought the operation to an abrupt end.

The family lived in Burgess Hill, which was within a certain number of miles from the sea. This meant that access was restricted. All the beaches were covered with loops of barbed wire, and some were also dotted with land mines.

Mum went to school outside the zone. She travelled  by train.  When she stepped onto the platform on her way home she was required to show her ID.  Bampy commuted daily to London and was subjected to the same rule. Their ID’s were different . His was for an adult and hers for a child.

Nanna’s sister, Gladys, was married to Clifford, a dim and alcoholic chap who also served on the home front as part of the anti-invasion force. His duty was to watch for enemy ships and planes from a pill box (Who knew there was so much to learn about pill box design?)

 

‘Father’ 2nd from left and Clifford far right. Sorry it’s a bit blurry.

One man stood on the roof while the other, in this case Clifford, remained inside. I don’t know if Clifford was bored, or perhaps he was practising his gun skills, which I doubt  he learned from Bampy. However, Clifford managed to fire his gun through the roof of the pill box, narrowly missing the poor chap above, who was minding his own business studying the horizon.

 

When at home, my mum, as a member of the Girl Guides, would carry out duties to support the war effort. These included delivering local mail and picking up litter. Knowing all these small details helps me to visualise her life and I am grateful that these moving D Day commemorations have allowed me to hear her stories.

Thank you Mum xxx

Luddites and Banking

Do you ever think about how long you have known some of your friends? Whizz and I have been married for 19 years, and my friendship with the couple we visited  the weekend before last, Cop and Tax, predates this by about 20 years.  In other words I have known them twice as long as I have known Whizz. Whizz recently referred to them as old friends of Lil’s, before realising that now, they are old friends of his as well. We are a couple of old gits… It happens.

The weekend with Cop and Tax , was as fabulous as ever. The couple, who many years ago, relinquished their unpopular careers in favour of self-sufficiency,  always provide a stonking dinner and a healthy country pastime. On this occasion the activity was a point to point.

Two Friends, Oil on canvas by Arthur Kurtz ‎

I will digress here to relate a tale about the last point-to-point I attended. It was with friends of Cop – some of the Hooray-Henries mentioned in this: past post. On that occasion, a rider in one of the races was known to my companions.

‘Never bet on him,’ they advised, ‘He always falls off his horse.’ (When I say bet, I’m only talking a couple of quid, probably less in those days). Needless to say, this ‘chap’ didn’t fall off, he stormed home in first place.

File:Cross country with horse and hound (1902) (14596537038).jpg

Cross Country with Horse and Hound, Peer, Frank Sherman, Published in Horse and Hound 1902

It was the memory of that first point-to-point that prompted me to attend an event of which, in truth, I disapprove in terms of its exploitation of animals. I don’t plan to do anything like that again. The occasion offered a viewing of the Grand National later on, but I’m afraid I refused at that jump. To me, the Grand National epitomises the ugly imposition of man(kind?) over its fellow sentient beings. Sorry race goers it is only my opinion and I don’t plan to throw red paint over you.

During my gambling life I have won nothing, hence, I hardly do it. If there’s a sweepstake at work or maybe a raffle, I invariably pick the option that arrives or occurs  last, or doesn’t arrive at all. The best thing I ever won was in a raffle, a bent, patent-plastic  belt. That is, until this point-to-point. For once I backed horses, to win, in three separate races, and two of them, ones with reasonable odds, passed the finish line in first place. Whoop Whoop, £7.50 profit. It may not seem  exciting to you, but it made my day.

Before we left for the races, Cop and Tax provided their usual, delicious, home-produced grub. Over lunch, Tax, at the grinning behest of Cop,  related her recent experience of banking technology.

Someone, I don’t remember whom, had given her a cheque. I imagine most readers will know that outside the Metropolis, banks are a rarity, and should you happen upon one, human cashiers are as common as elephants’ ballet shoes. Tax found herself at the mercy of a machine. She must insert her debit card and enter the amount, sort-code and account-number. This she did, and with a sense of triumph went home, confident that the total would somehow fetch up in her current account.

Days passed and the money did not appear, so she got in touch with a call centre – more buttons to press but at least she could talk to a human. The sum had not arrived, it must be assumed that it was one of those that had disappeared into the ether. Feeling justified in her mistrust of technology, Tax contacted the donor of the cheque, who checked their account to see whether it had been debited and reported back that it had definitely been through the account – in fact it had been through twice, once as a debit and again as a credit.

Poor Tax will never live down having carefully keyed into the bank machine, the account number and sort code on the cheque.

Someone else who will feel a bit silly, is the person who enabled this sign to appear across the country in a well known supermarket.

Stationary stationery!

Calories in Ikea Desserts 2019

 

Going Vegetarian

Here’s a thing: if you chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, your life will change.

One change I didn’t expect was that I would decide to go vegetarian.  Mavis is trying to do this too. Not in an obsessive way – if I’m served meat at a friend’s or relative’s house, I’ll eat it (with much enjoyment if my recent experience of a vegetarian diet is anything to go by), but I am trying very hard not to eat meat or its by-products, for environmental reasons.

hand globe world help earth illustration diagram planet worship protection protect attention respect awe appreciation recognition admiration handful of

I started by aiming for the Pescatarian option until a conversation with a passionate ocean conservationist put me off the idea. I am still investigating sustainable fish though and will keep you updated.

The challenge is combining vegetarianism with a Slimming World diet. Oh how sad I feel at the prospect, nay the actuality, of low fat cheese, no butter and low fat mayo.

So far I have had meat free sausages – not bad actually but you can’t live on them,  soya mince chilli, again not bad but it has an unpleasant after taste, and  roast dinner with fake steak, yorkshire pud and vege gravy (with added red wine). Mavis left her fake meat but I thought the roast was my most successful attempt to date.

Tonight I planned vegetarian shepherds pie. Earlier in the week I shoved loads of vegetables into the slow cooker as a base for the shepherds pie. Sadly, I made the mistake of adding potatoes. Potatoes, slow cooked for too long take on a nasty steamy flavour. The spuds were my first mistake. My second was to add soya mince – yes, that with the aftertaste. I flung in some soy sauce and decided against topping it with mash, as it already contained those steamy-tasting potatoes. Instead I topped it with Laughing Cow light triangles and 50% fat cheddar and bunged it in the oven for half an hour.  It was horrible! Actually, the topping was lush but if I was doing it again I’d leave out the slow cooked spuds and the mince, add lentils and top with mash.

Lunch has been soup – every day – with Lo-dough. Pretty sustaining and tasty. Breakfast, scrambled eggs or vege sausages and beans. Delish, and only one syn for two sausages (I had three).

I have never cooked vegetarian, apart from for inconvenient guests (ooh err, I’m one of those now). My go-to recipe for them is Delia’s lentil Moussaka. Why I haven’t done this for myself I have no idea. Note to self: do it.

Reading back through this, I don’t know why I, a keen cook, have entered into this new lifestyle with such lack of imagination. I think it’s because I’m trying to find things Mavis will enjoy. Well, that worked well, didn’t it?

I’m going to persevere though. There must be tasty, low syn, vegetarian meals to be found. I don’t hold out much hope for official Slimming World recipes as my experience of those has been as unimpressive as the above.

Watch this blog for progress reports and recipes. I will succeed, for the benefit of the planet.

Mum’s Chilli Con Carne

This is my recipe, for my girls. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Serves 4 – 6 people – I think. I never worry about left overs, so I’m not good at portion control – and there are only 3 of us left at home.

Ingredients

  • Spray oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • Fresh chillies to your  taste – I use 2 – 3 of those little, hot ones but I like a bit of punch (put the ones you don’t use in the freezer and remove individually as needed. You can slice from frozen if you warm them a bit in the palm of your hand. Don’t rub your eyes afterwards!)
  • 500g 5% fat minced beef
  • 2 tins kidney beans
  • 2 large tins tomatoes
  • Half tsp Cumin seeds
  • Quarter tsp ground coriander
  • Quarter tsp ground turmeric
  • Scant quarter tsp ground cinnamon
  • Quarter tsp sugar or sweetener
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Fry the diced onion and pepper gently  in the oil with the cumin seeds until the onions are soft (squirt on more oil if they stick).

Add the finely diced chilli and stir for a minute.

Turn up the heat and add the mince and the other spices and stir until the mince is browned.

Pour over the tomatoes, and the kidney beans – no need to drain them.

Simmer until the sauce is reduced to a thick consistency.

Add sugar, salt and pepper and stir

Taste and adjust seasoning. If it’s not hot enough add a bit of chilli powder. I can’t help you with quantities but start with a tiny bit, stir well and taste. If you do need to do this you will need to simmer your chilli for 10 more minutes to reduce the ‘roughness’ of the chilli flavour.

If you haven’t added chilli powder then simmer to let the flavours meld – say 5 minutes – add a splash of water to keep the consistency right if necessary.

Serve with Basmati rice or yellow Basmati Rice